by Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow
8 May 2011
It must have been Holy Tuesday. Just when I thought I had seen most everything, walking to the Post Office on West Fourth Street in Bethlehem, I saw one of those personalized license plates. Not the official ones that are made to order and are legal plates found on the rear bumper. This was an unofficial one found on the front bumper. Palm trees, after a manner of speaking, were to the right and to the left, framing an orange sunset across a bay. And in the middle, in script, was this confident advertisement: “I want it all.”
What does it mean to have it “all”? Does it mean that as long as someone else has a penny in a bank account or in a mattress somewhere that you don’t quite have it all? Maybe you have a tremendously expensive house, as someone once described his house to me, on that very beach, framed by those same palm trees. Then, do you have it all? Or you may have a penthouse in Manhattan and a studio in Nob Hill. Maybe you have a BMW and a Porsche. Season tickets to the Yankees and the Giants. Then, do you have it all? Or maybe an apartment in West Allentown or a house in historic district with all your bills paid. Or, perhaps, the roof over your head leaks during hard rains, and you have to pick and choose among your necessary medications. Then, do you have it all? The answer is: “Quite possibly.”
This is the Season about having it all, about having everything of any importance whatsoever. For the time is now when we can be assured that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ conquers the enemy of us all and opens to us the gate of everlasting life.
But Easter is about having it all in another way, too. Have you ever seen a child at around Noon on Christmas Day, when all the family and friends have gathered, and the thought is moving across her or his consciousness that all the presents have been given, and the day holds no more mountains to climb, no more wrapping paper to wrestle? We are in a similar circumstance—all of God’s truly significant gifts have been given to us: the enemy of us all has been conquered. God has given us the most precious gift in his bounty to give whether we have too much or too little, whether we dine on hamburger or crab, whether our stocks are rising or falling, or whether we are “in” or “out” at the club or the office.
From time to time I am asked why the Bible stopped being written—if the Bible is God’s revelation to us, and it is, did that revelation stop at the end of the first century when additional writings stopped being added to the body of writings thought to be the Word of God? The answer I usually give is an Easter answer. The gift of eternal life given in the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost are the very big gifts God has to bestow. It isn’t that God doesn’t have the money or the goods to be more generous; it is that God has given us what we need. And God has given it in full measure.
I suppose a kind of ambition is in our nature: to want more, to think we deserve more, and to go out and try to get it. And so much of our culture and our national ideals propel us to do just that. But wrangling more and more out of God may just not be in the cards we’ve been dealt. And we may forget what a tremendous barrier the just and innocent man, indeed, the Son of God, broke when he was killed and when God raised him from the dead. Do any of us need to go faster than the speed of light? Can we really make heaven a better place? Will our lives be significantly improved if our ISP provides the 100 Mbps that it promises? How much do we have to be given before it dawns on us that we really do have it all?